You rebuild, You restore All that’s broken From the ruins You redeem, You return All that’s stolen From your children That’s what You do
God’s heart is always set on redemption. His plan is centered on Eden. He won’t stop until we return. Since the day He’s grafted me in, my heart has been attuned to the truth that He is after redemption. He faithfully sits with the troubled, the broken, those in the ruins. As I stand in between, in this season, I’m standing on holy ground, entering into the preparation of giving my life to redemption.
Almost fifteen years ago my life was dark and broken. In the ruins. I was hopeless, in despair, and seemingly far out of reach of redemption. But the Lord called me His and redeemed me as far as the east is from the west.
Today I was officially accepted into the Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA program. The last few years (and truly my life’s story) feels as if it’s been leading up to this point, this precipice. On this Friday evening, preparing for Sabbath, I give Him honor and glory. Because He brings beauty for ashes. He turns sorrow to gladness.
Exactly 365 days ago I walked out my apartment door in Malešnica, got in a taxi and headed to the bus station in Zagreb to catch a bus to Vienna. I had some doctors appointments the next couple days before heading to Czech for a month.
When I said goodbye to Ema I distinctly remember her saying “goodbye forever!” somewhat sarcastically, but in hindsight that goodbye holds more weight to it than I care to feel. Goodbyes are hard…unknown goodbyes are thievery. Ema and I had only lived together for a few months and God opened doors in unexpected and providential ways to make that happen. So the “give and take away, blessed be the name” was confusing.
I remember waiting to board the bus to Vienna on that February afternoon, feeling the weariness of my tired heart and the expectation of what awaited me the next month. I’d been asked to spend a month in Czech, scouting out a new position, to consider moving there and joining a new team. I boarded the bus and settled into my seat. The foreign chatter and companions on the journey had become a familiar soundtrack to my travels. I took bus trips often, whether for solo trips, doctor appointments, or work. God always met me on those journeys; His nearness and companionship bringing peace to my often weary soul.
I distinctly remember that bus trip to Vienna. I remember looking out the window, reflecting on how familiar these hills and valleys had become. I remember the night I got there. I found a taco place that served surprisingly decent Mexican food (that’s hard to come by in Europe). I remember it raining when I left the restaurant, being without an umbrella and relishing in the Vienna lights.
The next morning I went to see my doctor, going back and forth to various labs, getting x-rays, poked and prodded. It’s a humbling experience to do these things alone and in a language you can barely communicate in. After filling about 30 vials of blood (yeah, I was pretty loopy…not sure I’d recommend a solo train trip after that), I headed to the train station to catch a train to Ústí nad Labem in Czech.
The Robertson family was a welcome sight for my sore and tired eyes. Truth be told, they were (and are) some of God’s greatest gifts to me. We’ve walked through some treacherous waters together; we’ve laughed, cried, grieved, and rejoiced together. Ben and Sarah were heading to a marriage conference and I was sticking around to watch Phoebe and Jadon for the next several days. Though I was completely exhausted by the end of the week with the kiddos (big respect for parents and single parents out there), they were some treasured and sweet days. I now completely understand phantom crying, sleepless nights, getting real comfortable with sick kiddos in the middle of the night, and the full gambit. But goodness, the refining beauty, joy, sorrow, and love that parents have for their children is indescribable. And I pray I get to experience that gift someday.
After Ben and Sarah returned from the conference, we had a few days together before I boarded a train to Frydlant, expecting to spend four weeks there.
You know the rest of the story. Those four weeks turned into four months. The pandemic quickly reached Czech and borders promptly closed. I never returned to Croatia. The “see you in a month!” remarks to friends and coworkers turned into unknown goodbyes. My belongings have since been shipped via ocean back to America.
I don’t know when I’ll get to go back to Croatia and see the places and people I love. The tension and breath I hold for that expectation is great. If I could speak with the Alison who boarded that bus to Vienna 365 days ago I’d have a lot to say to her. Truthfully, the Alison 365 days from now would probably have similar remarks.
God sees, knows, and walks with you. Do not be afraid.
Yes, in this life I’ve been assured I’ll have troubles, tribulations, grief, sorrow, anger, pain, betrayal, loss, sickness… and yet, I’ve also been promised that He will be with me. His ways are perfect. I may not understand. Yet, I know, He walks with me and guides me.
One year later, I’m five weeks away from moving to Colorado to start my MA in Counseling…a long, long time dream and process. I begin this journey with the assurance that He walks with me and guides me, feeling the expectation of a season lined with His favor. I’m confident that the suffering and sorrow I’ve walked through has brought depth to my capacity for others, bringing redemption and healing.
A few more grey hairs, maybe a few laugh lines (but well-moisturized, thank you very much), and well caffeinated. This is 28.
27 wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. I lived in three different countries and didn’t have a permanent address for most of this trip around the sun (here’s to that changing this year!) I faced much adversity this year and wouldn’t have had it any other way. This year represented healing, big decisions, hearing the Lord’s voice, finding my voice and so much more. I continued the journey of what it means to be a peacemaker not only internally but externally. I decided to take a big and scary step of faith of following Jesus into the unknown and further follow my calling to be a peacemaker and see redemption in my life and other’s lives. I’m incredibly expectant for all that 28 will hold for me…calling a new place home, beginning to embark on a longtime dream of becoming a counselor, and moving to Colorado.
Last year I walked into 27 feeling as if I was in a dark tunnel and feeling disillusioned. I’m incredibly grateful for the light, clarity and freedom the Lord has given me this year, on the other side of the tunnel.
I spent the entire day wearing an apron, attempting to bake a crusty loaf of gluten free bread (not my best work, Paul Hollywood would not given me a handshake), cooking up chicken shawarma, aaaand making a dreamy gluten free lemon coconut cake. Such a dreamy day…the only thing that could make it better would be spending it with ALL the people I love, which is a lot. As the “happy birthday” wishes, notes, texts, calls, FaceTimes, & Marco Polos came through, I found myself thanking God for this life. I’ve been given such a rich, diverse and beautiful life full of people from ALL over the world. I’m overflowing with gratitude for all the people, places, and things my life is filled with. I’m thankful for a body that is healing, eyes that see, ears that hear… what a gift! This life is so beautiful and I’m so grateful for all the gifts that God has given.
It’s time to say goodbye to the year everyone can’t wait to say goodbye to. 2020… what a year. This stretch of time marked our world more than we’ve ever seen in our lifetime. The first few weeks were somewhat normal… and then the world seemingly stopped. Our planet experienced a pandemic, racial unrest and much more. It’s hard to even begin to comprehend all that this year held.
Pandemic aside, this year was one of the most turbulent, constantly changing, decision fatiguing, and shocking years I’ve experienced. Honestly, I thought 2019 was a rough year. I had no idea what was coming for me in 2020. I remember so clearly this day one year ago. For a few months prior, I felt God stirring something in me and prompting me that something was about to change in my life. I stood on a hillside with some of our youth group and friends, sparkler in hand, watching fireworks all across Zagreb explode in the sky. The days, weeks and months that followed were filled with sorrow, pain, loss, grief, joy, heartache, confusion, clarity, purpose, goodbyes, loss of identity, lack of security and so much more. I lived in three different countries and called many apartments home.
When I look back on this year, I don’t think I’d want to relive the events again. The sudden panic that came over our world as COVID first started, the utter darkness of George Flloyd being killed and systemic injustice, the uncertainty of the future… I wouldn’t want to relive those events. But when I think back on how this year brought a great depth of despair and pain, I realize how, only in that process, was I able to reach a greater depth of joy and faith.
As I look to the year ahead, I feel myself holding my breath and ready for a big exhale. While I know a new year is not an automatic reset or magic switch, I do anticipate God will do great things in this depth of joy. I have a lot of hopes for 2021. I’m moving to a new city, putting down roots and pursuing a long time dream of becoming a counselor. I hope to read at least one book a month (maybe even two!). I hope to continue working toward my health holistically and healing my body from all the autoimmune diseases. Let’s be honest… I hope to fall in love! I hope to start the process of putting down roots & having a place to call home. I hope to continue to pursue emotional and spiritual health, healing and in turn, walk with others in seeking redemption.
We live in a broken and corrupt world… there’s no denying that after this year. A new year signifies hope and anticipation for the future. Although the clock striking midnight will not wipe away every tear, we know that this upcoming year is held by the One who will soon wipe away every tear. He holds us. He is with us. Whatever 2021 holds… whatever our hopes and dreams are for this new page… He is with us.
F A I T H F U L -remaining loyal or steadfast -reliable -true to the facts
Faithfulness is the concept of unfailingly remaining loyal to someone or something and putting that loyalty into consistent practice regardless of extenuating circumstances.
We often throw phrases around and lose touch with the depth of the reality we’re speaking… “God is love, God is good, God is faithful.” A few days ago, as I was spending some time with the Lord, I was listening to this song that repeated the word “faithful” over and over again. I was struck by the phrase…as any good theologian does, I googled the word. (No, I didn’t do an in depth word study…sorry!) These definitions above struck me. In the last few years, and especially in 2020, we need this reminder of the reality of God’s faithfulness. He is loyal to us consistently, regardless of the extenuating circumstances we are in.
On one of the final days of my time at debriefing, we were given the gift of an hour of lectio devina. Lectio devina is a practice of reading scripture in prayer and meditation with various phases. During my time, I felt lead to listen to music as opposed to meditating on a passage of scripture. At the beginning of quarantine I stumbled upon some worship videos on YouTube that have been really sweet in my devotional times. You can check them out here.
I was struck by the words being sung…
“What do I lack that hasn’t been given? What do I need that You won’t supply? You feed the sparrow, You clothe the lily They do not worry, so neither will I You are faithful God
There is a love that’s already given There is a grace that I could not earn You pour out mercy, morning by morning Your goodness covers me all of my days”
As I continue on in this journey, I cling to these words. This season has been filled with grief, pain, heartbreak, and being completely uprooted. But I know my God is faithful…He will supply every need and be faithful in these extenuating circumstances.
And I am thrilled about the healing God has given, so grateful for the clarity, and completely excited about these next steps!
Hide me deep inside Your heart, Lord Cover me with Your wings Bring me into safety Bring me into fellowship with who you are, Lord Father, Son, and Spirit This is what I long for
This morning I woke up at 5:30 to the news that there’d been rioting and looting downtown. There’s been unrest in the world this year…but there’s been a lot of unrest in Chicago for a long time. The sirens are drowned out by all the overwhelm of what they signify and chase after. Early this evening tornado sirens echoed, the tornado alert went off on my phone and I watched the sky turn black around 5PM. I debated if I should go into the basement of my building or if I’d be okay in my studio. The skies are now blue and the sun is shining but I’m watching helicopters fly by.
We’re all holding a lot of grief, pain, trauma, confusion, anger, sadness, and restlessness. It’s a lot to carry. It’s incredibly heavy. At the same time we all probably have thoughts of, “If I only had this…then I’d be okay, safe, secure.” What’s your “this”?
I’ll go first… if I knew what my future held, where I’d live, what the rest of this year will hold then I would be secure and wouldn’t have so many questions. But really… my “this” is if I had a house, roots, home, a husband and kids then I’d be secure.
As I shared my “this” with a friend this evening, as we both lamented what this season has brought, she reminded me ever so boldly, “Your desire for that security, that covering, that safety is good. You’re created to want and crave that covering, security, leadership…it’s God’s design! The contrary of having it all together, independence and not needing anyone is the false sense of security.”
There will always be your “this” and when that “this” becomes tangible and comes to fruition, there will be another “this”. Don’t miss it… the Lord is the giver and He’s faithful to provide but our ultimate security lies in Him.
No plan of His can be thwarted. You can rest freely in the authority that He has already written the story. He will provide. You don’t have to be self reliant.
Like most people, quarantine brought out a new level of homemaker in me. I’ve pickled onions, made more loaves of banana bread than I care to admit, and considered making ginger ale. Quarantine regulations have started to lift here in the Czech Republic but I still have quite a few kitchen adventures I’d like to take.
Enter vegetable stock…
A few months back I started collecting my veggie scraps into a plastic zip bag to freeze. Onion, carrot, garlic, sweet potato, celery…etc. I’ve gone through quite a few vegetables but of course the skin, the outer layer, the rough part, needs to be shed, peeled or discarded. After about a month the bag was finally full and ready to be put to use. The simple task of emptying the bag of scraps into a big pot, covering with water, and bringing to a boil would produce a bounty of flavorful vegetable stock.
As the aroma filled the kitchen, the connection to this refining season filled my mind.
This season of life hasn’t been easy for anyone. I’ve reflected over the last weeks, reminded that there is nowhere on earth I could go to “escape” the nightmarish year we find ourselves in. But even as this year will leave us broken, bruised, stripped bare, I believe it will bring us as individuals and as humanity to a greater, richer, more full result.
The process of actually “cooking” the vegetable stock was almost too simple. I emptied the full bag of vegetable scraps into a big pot, filled it with water, let it boil and voila…it was done! But the process to get to this point was long!
I started peeling, cutting, chopping, discarding, seperating, and breaking apart these vegetables months ago. Much like we all have been stripped bare these last few months.
The average person would look at these scraps and just say, “Just throw it away! It’s useless!” But instead, I chose to store it away and prepare it for a greater purpose, using all of it. Just like God uses all of us, our brokenness, our torn apart lives.
When the scraps were in the pot, simmering in the water to produce the final result, they steamed and boiled. The pressure increased. They were “hard pressed.”
After boiling and infusing their flavor into the water, I strained the scraps from the final result. You see, the scraps had to be under pressure in order to become a new creation. Then, and only then, could they be poured out for another purpose.
The process of actually “cooking” the vegetable stock was almost too simple. But the end result added flavor, depth and had a new purpose.
These days have been filled with plenty of gifts. I’ve fallen off the rhythm of posting my weekly Sunday blog posts of God’s kindness throughout my week but I’ve still been remembering and reflecting on His goodness. These past few weeks have been full of many highs and lows, questions and answers, conversations, cooking and baking, rest and reflection and just good stuff!
I’ve had plenty of hikes, walks in the woods on my own and long walks with friends. It’s been such a gift to explore and see the beauty of Czech. Early on in quarantine (beginning of March), I was diagnosed with two different autoimmune disorders that have had me making quite a few adjustments to my lifestyle and diet. It’s truthfully been really fun to spend more time cooking, paying more attention to my health and listening to my body more intentionally. I’ve been amazed to see how my body has reacted to cutting out inflmmatory foods.
About a month ago, we took a trip to Pisek and Prague. I got some photos in the beautiful yellow fields of grapeseed flowers. Seriously one of my dreams! They are just fields of gold.
There have been so many sweet times with the Lord….He’s spoken so clearly in this season to me. It’s been hard, of course, but I’m reminded to keep my eyes on Him and His strength and faithfulness rather than my circumstances.
This past week Martina and I got to spend a few days at Selah. Selah is a retreat center for JV missionaries to spend time with God in solitude and reflection. It was truly the Lord’s timing for me to get some time there, soak in the beauty of God’s creation and spend some intentional time asking Him for direction. I’m so thankful for the early sunrises, mountain air, and time on rocking chairs doing my morning devotions. What a treat it was!
Martina and I have now been living together for almost three months. What was supposed to be just over two weeks has turned into three months! And what a gift this time has been. God knew how much this friendship would be a gift to both of us and it’s been such a provision of the Lord in this season. We’ve laughed, cried, cooked, cleaned, talked, prayed and just enjoyed. I’m so thankful for her and this friendship that the Lord has provided in such a unique season.
My team and I are continuing to seek some answers for my residency here in Czech and my visa situation. Being a foreigner in the midst of a pandemic is an interesting situation to be in but I’ve seen just how much God is in the details.
‘Cause when You speak, when You move
When You do what only You can do
It changes us
It changes what we see and what we seek
When You come in the room
When You do what only You can do
It changes us
It changes what we see and what we seek
You’re changing everything
Spirit of the living God
Spirit of the living God
We only want to hear Your voice
We’re hanging on every word
Spirit of the Living God by Vertical Worship
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When God speaks, it changes everything. When our ears are attentive to His voice, it changes everything. It changes us. It changes our moves, our wants, our desires, our hope, our joy, our despair…everything. I’ve noticed in these last few weeks that our hearts and minds are very subtle, tricky and convincing. Slowly but surely, our eyes turn away from God and look at our own situation. We forget His redemption, His character, His presence and start to craft creative solutions to our very big problems. And the solutions and arranging can get quite exhausting, especially as we do it with our eyes fixed on us.
But when we take our eyes off ourselves and look upward and say, “Father, help!”
That changes everything.
Like many, this season of COVID-19 has been nothing short of perplexing, tiring, challenging and ever-changing. I’ve had many things to figure out as a foreigner living in various countries, in such a time as this. I’ve had to spend hours on the phone with embassies, asking questions that I never would have thought I’d be asking 10 years ago. It’s quite an adventure as a single woman to have everything you own fit into just a few suitcases and boxes, be a foreigner in another country during a pandemic and navigate many hurdles all before turning 30.
I don’t want to highlight all of the hurdles life has thrown at me in these last few months, in the tidal wave of COVID, but instead highlight the faithfulness of God and just how much turning our eyes upward changes everything. In March, I found out the borders would be closing and most of Europe would be in a state of emergency, making it impossible for me to return to my apartment in Croatia. In that same week I was diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases and two days later the city in which I live in Croatia experienced some of the biggest earthquakes in over 100 years.
Did any of this take my all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God by surprise? Not at all.
In the highest and highs and lowest of lows of life, it’s very easy for us to ask why? But instead, I think we learn a lot more and get a bigger picture by asking what? What are you doing Lord? What do You want to show me? How can I cling to You?
I can assure you, He will answer.
So what has God been doing? What has He shown me? God has done some necessary, deep, and vital work in my heart in this season. I’ve learned to trust Him more deeply, depend on Him daily, take my eyes off of myself and ask Him to see my story through His eyes. He’s shown me that He is in control and that changes everything. He’s shown me that if I attempt to take this next step of faith with my eyes on myself, my ability, and my power, I won’t be able to do it. It will lead to further exhaustion, burn out, despair. But if I take my eyes off of myself, live in bold faith and ask Him for help, and walk in His strength, that changes everything.
I’d love to hear what God has been showing you in this season. How He’s deepened your dependence on Him, how you’ve heard His loving voice and felt His care.
“What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see. It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in a tent. Abraham did this because he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.” Portions of Hebrews 11 NLT
We are living in the land of in between. We can all acknowledge that a shift has happened and our old normal has ended. We are now in the middle of the beginning of a new normal. This looks different for all of us and God is surely producing something in our in between, all in unique ways. I can’t begin to try to understand what “land in between” you’re walking through but I know that whether it’s a job transition, a new home, a new relationship, loss of a loved one…God is producing something in you. You’re being refined by the fire of this “land in between.”
This “land in between” has been a journey. As the water level of my life goes down, I start to hit some rocks that I couldn’t see below the surface before. I start asking a lot of “what if” questions and those questions send me into a panic. “What if I lose everything? What if I can’t renew a visa? What if I don’t see my family and friends for months, years, etc.?” I’m sure you’ve had a lot of “what if” questions too. I know for me, it can get exhausting! How can I live a life laid out for Christ saying I trust Him in everything AND continue to fall into immense fear at the “what if” questions? And the reality is… I can’t lean fully on Jesus while fully (or even partially!) trusting in myself. As @ruthchousimons stated the other day, “We cannot simultaneously lay it all down and hold it all together.”
This got me thinking… can you imagine if Abraham would have not followed God, left home, and instead chose to ask “what if”? By faith, Abraham obeyed God, trusted Him, all the while having no idea what the outcome would be. Of course, He knew what God had promised Him but there were a lot of unknowns on the journey. Where would he go? When would he get there? When would God fulfill His promise? He didn’t know! BUT Abraham did this because he was trusting, living, acting in faith confidently knowing that God was faithful to His promises and His character.
God is faithful. He is to be trusted. So whether you’ve got a million “what if” questions or you find it quite simple to be walking in confident faith in this “land between” season, know that God is who He says He is and we can go in faith trusting Him.